Don’t have time to take a spa weekend with your girlfriends? Is that week at the beach with the kids looking too expensive? Given money and time constraints, taking time off to recharge and relax can seem impossible.
But sometimes, I discovered, a day is all you need.
Just over the Connecticut border is a quick “daycation” destination enjoyable for friends, families and couples: Stand-up paddle boarding. The water sport, which is actually an ancient form of surfing originating from Hawaii, involves paddling a long surf board, or paddle board, while standing.
For a group of first-timers from the Katonah-Lewisboro area, it was easy-to-learn activity in a “resort-like” setting that made us feel like we were on vacation.
SUP has become more popular among non-surfers as a way to travel on rivers, lakes and ponds. After trying it myself, I can tell you it doesn’t require any athletic skill beyond being able to hoist yourself from a kneeling position to standing on a board about three feet across in width. And if you develop some technique, it can give your core a great workout.
Stephanie Sanz of Goldens Bridge corralled her sister, Jennifer Bohner, and a group of mom-friends including me, Adele Lombardi of Katonah, Anna Peris of Waccabuc and Suzanne Melnick of Goldens Bridge. Jennifer, an experienced SUPer, had her own board but the rest of us reserved boards for a two-hour trip through Down Under Kayaking in Rowayton, CT, a picturesque seaport village at the start of the Five Mile River.
Depending on what part of town you’re leaving from, it’s about 30-40 minutes away and ample parking is available in a lot across the street.
That “vacation feeling” began as soon as we pulled into town. Beachy shops lined the main drag and the harbor below was full of yachts and fishing boats and kayaks. “Rowayton is fantastic—it looks like a postcard,” said Anna.
After checking in with Kim Beaumont, the owner of the surf shop, we were told there weren’t enough boards—“we’re just waiting for someone to come back and you’ll be all set,” she said in her New Zealand accent.
I immediately tensed up—this might be a daycation but it was sandwiched in-between camp drop-off and pick-up and I was taking time from work (shh—it was “research”). Waiting around could foil our attempts at scheduled relaxation!
Had we read Beaumont’s bio on the Down Under website, we might have been forewarned about her carefree philosophy. “We‘re laid back, down to earth, honest, easy going,” it reads. We don‘t really worry about tomorrow, or yesterday.”
But the wait was just long enough to check out the cute surf clothes and sun dresses in the shop. We were soon being outfitted with paddles and life jackets and given a very brief demonstration on how to stand up on the board.
And we were off.
We paddled out, kayak-style and on our knees. We were told to remain kneeling until we were away from the dock. One by one, we laid our paddles across the board, put one foot up, then the other, assuming a downward-dog like position, eventually standing tall—some of us more gracefully than others.
Within minutes we were gliding past the shops and boats and admiring the mansions along this section of Connecticut’s gold coast. We all managed to keep a steady pace and no one fell. Jennifer—the one with the experience—showed us how to paddle with a twisting motion to enhance the work on our oblique muscles.
The scenery was breathtaking and aside from an occasional wake from a motorboat, the water was calm. We were paddling in the Long Island Sound now, and made it to a small island where we rested for a bit—though no one seemed overly fatigued. We noticed some other picnickers who arrived with a cooler by kayak and wished we had strapped piná coladas to our backs.
We paddled back, more quickly this time, and completed the round trip in exactly two hours.
“I thought it would be a lot harder than it was,” Adele said afterwards. “It did feel like a good core workout, and although I thought I’d be sore the next day, I wasn’t. I would definitely do it again. It was a fun way to catch up with friends while trying something new and different.”
Anna added that, as a beginner, it was not difficult to get up on the board. “I got the hang of it quickly and I felt very stable most of the time. I think you can control how much you get out of it by speeding up the rowing and also by engaging your abdominal muscles.”
Suzanne also gave it a thumbs up—though she said kayaking makes her feel more “one with the water.” She also said she’d love to return to town for kayaking with the kids or dinner with her husband.
What to know before you go:
- Advance reservations are recommended.
- Down Under rents by the hour: $25 for the first, and $15 for each additional hour. If the weather looks bad, you must cancel at least 24-hours ahead of time.
- Parking is available in a commuter lot across the street
- They recommend kids be at least 9 years old to head out on their own paddle, accompanied by an adult.
- There are a few dining options that look good, but right above the shop is the Rowayton Market, which has tables overlooking the water. Help yourself to delicious sandwiches, freshly prepared foods and baked goods, and make your way outside.